Leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Malik Ishaq speaks during an interview with Reuters at his home in Rahim Yar Khan in southern Punjab province in this October 9, 2012 file photograph. — Reuters Photo

QUETTA: The Hazara community on Saturday demanded that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi chief Malik Ishaq be put on trial, a day after he was arrested following deadly sectarian attacks in the city of Quetta.

Ishaq, who leads the banned sectarian militant outfit, was held on Friday after two recent bombings in the southwestern city targeting the Shia Hazara minority killed more than 180 people, sparking nationwide protests.

The outlawed militant group, linked to both Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for both attacks.

“We have always been demanding arrest of all those involved in any act of sectarian violence, irrespective of their party affiliation,” said Abdul Khaliq Hazara, leader of the Hazara Democratic Party.

“Ishaq must be brought to justice and punished for involvement in violence,” he added.

Ishaq, who has been arrested before, was released by a court on bail in July 2011, even though he has been implicated in dozens of murders.

He was detained briefly in 2012 for inciting sectarian hatred and has also been accused of masterminding the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, which wounded several players and killed eight Pakistanis.

His latest arrest – which came a day after the Pakistani army denied any links to LJ – should not be an “eye wash”, said Sajid Naqvi, leader of the Shia Ulema Council.

“We demand his trial and the authorities should provide protection to witnesses who would like to appear in the court,” he said.

The LJ leader, said on Friday that he had been arrested in connection with the Quetta bombings. Police officials said that he was arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order law.

The February 16 bomb attack in Quetta killed 89 people, while 92 people were killed in an attack at a Hazara snooker hall on January 10.

Protesters poured onto the streets following the latest bombing and shut down parts of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, demanding better protection for the Shia community and lashing out at the government for failing to catch the perpetrators.

Officials said earlier this week that security forces had killed four men and detained more than 170 alleged suspects.

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